An Ole Clairefontaine

This 6-1/2" x 8-1/2" (17cm x 22cm) packet of Clairfontaine 8mm graph paper, with a two-hole punched and wide 6cm margin, has been with me for about 20 years. The 8mm graph boxes are lightly inked red and lilac, and are sub-divided into 4 equal 2mm smaller lines--perfect for various forms of writing or doodling.

Place Vendome, Paris

I bought it in a corner shop on the Place Vendome.

It was Easter week and I must have wanted to take some notes. I wasn't doing any visual journals then, but did keep an active written journal. Perhaps, in haste, I failed to pack a journal and picked this up so that I could jot down some thoughts.

Practicing Calligra-FUN

After all this time it is only slightly discoloured and takes markers with barely any bleeding.

Reverse Side of Calligra-FUN page

It has no identifying marks, or price on it. But perhaps it is still being sold in French shops.

And mysteriously it surfaced the other day in my file cabinet!

But now that I've rediscovered the packet, it is empty. I used the remaining 25 of 100 sheets practicing calligraphy.


Driftless, Stories from Iowa

Thanks to Something to Say, I had the privilege to see this documentary about Iowa, and hear the director, Danny Frazier, talk about his hopes, dreams and intention in making the film and sharing the photographs.

It is brilliant in its simplicity and enormity, simultaneously and richly evoking all the dreams, nightmares and reality of a disintegrating American landscape.

We lost the mills.

We lost manufacturing.

Farm Barn For Sale, Galilee, PA ©

We are losing the farms.

Each passing day another piece of the United States seems to disappear.

Ray's Farm - Cemetery Road ©

With Autumn settling into our bones, and Winter hours away, I watch with greedy eyes as my neighbours turn grass into bales of hay and wonder how long it will be before they, too, are gone.


Simple Journal Prompt

Front: 2 sheets connected with big fat metallic silver tape strips

Outside PagesBack: 2 sheets connected with big fat metallic silver tape strips

Sometimes the simplest journal prompt can be the most powerful. Elizabeth Bunsen mentioned her, "Manifest Journaling " technique recently and about a week later, I took two cut down watercolour papers, my odd but fun Holbein watercolour palette, ink and some Zig markers and made my own version of Elizabeth's prompt.

Without having just read, Journal Spilling, I may not have taken the plunge and done this prompt.

Since making the pages, I've put up a mini altar in my bedroom window where I light two candles to manifest the hidden but meaningful thoughts.

Notes from the Voodoo Cafe: Interview Roz Stendahl

Stop on by to hear Ricë Freeman-Zachery's one hour interview with Roz Stendahl.

It is funny, entertaining, educational and chock full of great insight into journaling and the creative process.

It is a terrific spin-off from Ricë Freeman-Zachery's new book, "Creative Time and Space: Making Room for Making Art."

GraF it 90 g Sketch pads

GraF It 90 G (top to bottom: A6, A5, A4)**

GraF It 90 G comes in four unique sizes, all of which are similarly bound and constructed with 41lb/90 g/m white paper. Each contains 80 sheets/160 pages.

I was watching a film about Georgia O'Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz when I drew the above in markers on the A5 size GraF It 90 G pad, remembering that Ms. O'Keefe had said, "I often painted fragments of things because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could."

I must say Joan Allen, and not Georgia O'Keefe was in my sight whilst doodling.

Homage to Barron Storey

On another night, with a sense of total abandon, I did a quick sketch, again with markers, that I think is more a homage to Barron Storey.

I like these sketch pads, their white brightness, the fact that they tear off easily and have a binding system that can be easily folded back on itself. The one draw back I see with these pads is that they tend to furl but a little weight on them flattens them out again.

Thus far I've only used the two smaller pads, but when my art space is cleaner, and my hands ready on the helm, I'll be using the two larger pads with great frequency. They are perfect for quick sketches, doodles and ideal for just letting loose with creative ideas.

All writing instruments worked well on the sketch pads, but they don't take to wet medium.

For resources check the Exaclair site.

Quick reference for paper sizes and their equivalents.

Review: Journal Spilling

Journal Spilling Cover ©

I thought I'd leisurely read Journal Spilling at Callicoon's new cafe, drinking coffee and taking in the last rays of sun, instead what I wanted to do was follow along with Diana and spill all over my journal(s).

The book is written in a refreshing, engaging and experienced voice--the voice of Diana Trout. “Free expression” exercises, the book’s subtitle, are skillfully woven throughout the book putting the reader, and journal maker at ease.

It is a book that motivates both the long-term journal keepers, like myself, and the novice, to set up and gather a few supplies and tools, anywhere, and just do it in its opening chapter, Warming Up. In fact, it fosters just what the title suggests, a way in which to create an organic, self defined journal just spilling onto a page from a box of crayons, a watercolour palette or a bottle of ink.

Judgment free, the chapters build on each other, and erase the terror often associated with trying to achieve the perfect page with precious materials. Instead, the Censor takes back stage while the Creator relaxes, explores and produces a seemingly effortless personal journal page(s). The book's chapter, "Taming the Critic" does some of the work, but it is the book in its entirety that grants the reader total permission to move beyond that "do not trespass" sign artists often experience.

Artistic Attempts Cover ©

At midpoint in reading the book, I found myself, “spilling” here, there and in my “Artistic Attempts “ journal—an altered calendar resurfaced with gesso.

The Words Speak for Themselves ©

The fact that I was able to venture so freely and spontaneously into a journal spill is testament to the writer’s skill and the books value. Too often, I weigh myself down with pensive pondering and few art pages.

I am not Picasso ©

My Censor and cacophony of Critics are shrill, but with Journal Spilling at my side and Diana’s voice in my head, perhaps I might yet capture that sense of freedom that arrives when we allow ourselves to just create.

Just Do It ©

You can get your copy of Journal Spilling from Diana directly with a bonus collage pack.

Treat yourself to this terrific book!

Meeting Diana Trout

Have you ever sat on a bench to rest your feet and suddenly found yourself with a companion?It has happened to me often, but in two cases, one in 1975, and the other in 2003, not only did I find myself with a temporary companion, I found a friend!

A conference had been organised on the East Coast, a rarity, and those of us who had often missed out on the plethora of West Coast opportunities, were so excited we came out in droves.

7 of Vine ©

The one workshop I was keen to take was with Linda & Opie O'Brien. I loved that workshop and have 7 of Vine hanging in my kitchen.

But what I remember most about my rare attendance at workshops and this ArtiologyWorkshop is meeting Diana Trout.

Diana had come with some of her Philadelphia friends, two of whom I knew from several on line art groups.
Yet for reasons inexplicable, we gravitated to each other in a quiet way that has been sustained with telephone calls, and an exchange of submissions to our now defunct, but then respective zines.Now Diana Trout has come out with an amazing new book, Journal Spilling, Mixed Media Techniques for Free Expression.

Journal Spilling is terrific!

(To be continued)


Art in the Netherlands, not looking good

In today's issue of NRC Handelsblad, it is reported that the Scheringa Museum collection was confiscated by AMRO, and that Louis Reijtenbagh is auctioning off his huge collection at Sotheby's in New York.

These are troubling times for the poor, the rich, the needy, the healthy and those suffering from ill health.

When in dire straits, art is often among the first items sold while art programs are often the first to be discontinued.


Marking the Page: All those Markers

What with various widths, colours, price, performance and ease of use, price, availability and even familiarity--not all markers are equal and personal preferences prevail.

After evaluating the shelf life of my markers, and in anticipation of learning and doing marker calligraphy, I decided to test out all the markers I have on hand. All of the written tests were done before taking on that Calligra-FUN class.

Click for larger image: Top to bottom:
Staedtler Pigment Liner; Penstix permanent EF; Penstix 0.7mm; Slicci 0.4;
Hi-tec-C, 0.4mm; Uniball Vision Fine

The Niji marker (below) now known and sold as a
Yasutomo Y&C Stylist pen can be found at art suppliers and craft shops. It is a single end marker. The body of the marker is narrower than some markers and has a non-flexible nib. It appears to come in about 8 colours and sells for $1.29. It is good for drawing and fast doodling.

Yasutomo Y&C Stylist Pens (formerly Niji)

Click for larger image: Top to bottom:
Tombow; Galaxy; Niji Stylist; Marvey Artwin; Mars Staedtler Graphics 300; Fabrico

Tsukineko Fabrico

Tsukineko Fabrico markers come in about 36 colours and are most often found at quilt and craft shops. Generally sold in sets, individual markers average $2.89 each. I suspect I bought mine at the local sew shop when I lived in Park Slope. It just glides onto paper, fabric, glass and most other surfaces flawlessly.

Click for larger image: Top to bottom:
Itoya Double Header; Letraset; Marvy Single 55; Pentel Metallic Brush Tip:
Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen; Micron .5

Itoya Doubleheader Calligraphy Marker

Itoya makes quite a few markers. The Doubleheader Calligraphy Marker shown above is one of my all time favourites. It has a slightly smaller (1.5mm) tip than the average marker (2.0mm) on one side, and a 3.0mm on the other. It is light weight and easy to hold for my small hands. Colours are somewhat limited in this model: Black, Blue, Green, Pink, Purple, Red, Aquamarine, Cabernet, Dijon, Evergreen, and Mocha. The average cost is $2.59 for individual markers. John Neal is selling a few sets, and Dick Blick* sells these individually for $2.12.

(*Dick Blick states the markers are 1.7mm not 1.5mm; perhaps they have changed the width since I bought mine.)

Click for larger image: Top to bottom:
Sanford Unique (M); Pentel Hybrid; Sigma Pigment Brush BR99; Kuretake XF (Disposable); Kuretake F (Disposable); Sanford Liquid Expresso EF; Zig Memory

Click for larger image: Top to bottom:
Pilot V-Ball XF; Uniball Vision Elite; Staedtler Triplus Fine Liner; Copic Multliner 0.3mm; Copic Multiliner 0.8mm; Sakura Gelly; Copic Multiliner 1.0; Copic Multiliner .005; 0.01

All of the above markers were tested in a 5.25" x 8.25" (13 x 21cm) 240 squared (graph) Moleskine Reporter Notebook.

Of note, fountain pen trials exhibited no feathering, bleeding or see through--a most remarkable Moleskine, needless to say!

After writing this up, I discovered here at Dawn DeVries Sokol's blog, another test of markers.


On Drawing: Milton Glaser


Glaser, in this short video, makes some compelling statements about drawing. One of which resonates not only with the act of drawing, but the act of writing. I think there really is a mind-body synergy, and that synergy played out with the motion of the hand differs from the clicking of the keyboard--perhaps emanating from a different part of the brain.

Glaser has a new book, entitled, "Drawing is Thinking" which he refers to in the video.


Books in British Words

A. S. Byatt new book, "Children's Story" gets good marks at the WSJ and a fine review in Kentucky's Courier-Journal here. It is not a short novel, nor one with a single protagonist, but appears to be splendid, like Byatt's earlier Possession. And, it was a runner up for this year's Booker. Laura Miller's interview at Salon with Byatt is most revealing of her thoughts, and perhaps explains what drives her tangled, wonderful writing.

The New York Times review, however, is testy and tentative with praise, and suggests it is over packed with light weight literary and historical luggage. The only redeeming remark in the review is the suggestion the book is reminiscent of Middlemarch. If it is, I shall devour it gladly.


One of my favourite films, watched on my wee 15" Mac, now gone, was Gosford Park, not so much for the film itself, but for the brilliant post-production interview with Julian Fellowes, a man so well versed in class, one wonders why he hasn't chosen to write a non-fiction account.

Fellowes new book, "Past Imperfect" sounds like a juicy weekend thriller suggestive of those chatty and most catty remarks exchanged on many of my Channel Crossings by 'umble coat attendants as the ferry moved away from the Continent towards England and home. I always came away bemused, and amused by their sharp anti-Continent tongue, often sharper than their eye, as I was no Brit but rather an American with a large capacity for mimicry.

The book appears to be a combination of mystery, intrigue, friendship and place. And although the review makes me want to read this book, immediately, it is Tracy Quan's remark, "being liberated from class identity means being, in some sense, homeless" that alerted me that the book undoubtedly has considerable substance and might require more than a blink to absorb.


Karen Armstrong's new book, "The Case for God " struck gold with me when I heard the author interviewed on NPR. Sane, logical and grounded in history, the book could change some people's religious life as the former nun strikes the right cord about living a moral life, not eating the bible.


Do you recognize this painting?

The first day of snow: Blog Action Day

First Flakes, New Mexico
Photograph: National Weather Station

I was in wonder when I realised that the wetness on the ground, falling from the sky, was not rain, but our first snow.

It is light, but persistent.

I had an afterthought. Today is Blog Action Day, a once a year event, and this year focused on Global Climate Change.

What better day to recount how this day, with snow, differs so palpably from the October, two years ago, when I moved to the Upper Delaware Valley.

That month, two years ago, the sun was shining. One of the first things done to improve the house was washing all the indoor porch windows. Even with 8 windows wide open, the house remained warm from the bright sun, and the drops of water from cleaning dried quickly.

The entire month was glorious. Preparing for the delivery of my household goods, too long in storage, were pleasant, soothing and productive. I had plans for a rain barrel garden, and wandered across the large property line admiring flowers, herbs and weeds.

I had no need to turn on the furnace. I had no reason to switch on the few overhead lights to read.

It was a perfect Autumn.

Two years later the house is cold, dark, somewhat dank, and while I keep the furnace set below 60 much of the time, today it seems I may have to raise the bar and move the dial up.

My second winter was hellacious. Several times I had to fight my way out from one of 4 exits with all my strength to topple the mounds of packed snow. On two occasions I had to send an SOS to a neighbour to get me out of blocked door(s) frozen by snow turned to ice. I learned that if I wanted out, I had to put on my boots, and get to the doors quickly and frequently shovel the accumulations or face more days of entrapment.

The Farmer's Almanack has declared that this Winter will be very bad.

I can barely image a Winter worse than I experienced last year.

Is this climate change?

How Nobel: President Barack Obama

While others take a different view, I concur with the Committee Chair when he said, quoted here

"He got the prize because he has been able to change the international climate," Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said. "Some people say, and I understand it, isn't it premature? Too early? Well, I'd say then that it could be too late to respond three years from now. It is now that we have the opportunity to respond — all of us."


Bookbinding at its finest

Pictorial Webster's: Inspiration to Completion from John Carrera on Vimeo.

Discovered reading Red Velvet.

Books: Nocturnes

James McNeill Whistler, Bridge Amsterdam, 1889. Etching and drypoint

What a delight and what cause for remembrance is Christopher Hitchens review of Kazuo Ishiguro's short stories, "Noctures."

Why delight? What memory?

I was in high school--a boring experiment in educating the masses, me-thought, and so, I couldn't wait for the bigger, brighter sunbeams that streamed outside my window like university and life. Instead of waiting out the final chapter, I rushed headlong into summer school, a way to shorten the sacrifices of arriving at five minutes before eight (7.55am) each morning and sitting in crowded classrooms.

With these abbreviated summer courses we had the same curriculum, but only 4 weeks to accomplish what regularly scheduled classes would cover in approximately 4 months, and so I sought equally foolproof short cuts.

In order to get that treasured "A" with a big capital letter, I read the New York Times Book Review as if it had biblical implications, using its format and fervor to write my essays for my Advanced English class. I frolicked around unpronounceable and little used words and sprinkled them judiciously throughout my writing, somewhat like this review by the formidable Mr. Hitchens.

I got my "A" and as a bonus, I admirably got a perfect score in the vocabulary section of that year's hated and heated compulsory English Regents.

In the end, it may best to avoid reading Mr. Ishiguro's short stories and instead treasure this unflattering review. After all, a review that can encompass Whistler, Hegel, Debussy and mythology in poetic English is worth savouring more than once.


Turn art into a rubik's cube

Do you remember these?

Discovered at Vintage Moon Studios; create at Rubik's Cube.

My first Artist DVD: Anne Bagby

I was first introduced to Anne Bagby's work in Lynne Perrella's compendium, "True Colors: A Palette of Collaborative Art Journals ." When the book arrived, my friend Sue and I, chatting on the phone hundreds of miles apart, flipped through the book together, using post-it notes for the pages we admired.

In the end, we both came away with multiple post-its for Ms. Bagby's work.

What I liked about the work was its dimensionality; depth; suggestions of more--a mystery to unfold; the frequent simple, but evocative compositions; and her originality. She makes her own paper, stamps and stencils.

Anne Bagby © via Artists Magazine

Recently, The Artists Magazine offered a glimpse into Anne Bagby's work and perhaps mentioned a DVD.

What I did know is that Creative Catalyst Productions offered many artists work on DVD.

After staring at the DVD, watching a clip, and reading about another artist's excitement after working with the DVD, I finally pushed the "buy it now" button.

It arrived in today's post-holiday mail.

I am excited but hesitate to watch it. I don't want to be disappointed in this purchase.